AlphaGo may already have found a different beauty of GO beyond human imagination (3)
Your nature is ever changing and is always the same. The path of understanding GO is simply accepting yourself.
Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo program triumphed in its final game against South Korean Go grandmaster Lee Sedol to win with final score 4 : 1 on March 15th. This was the fifth game in seven days, in what was a draining, emotional battle for Lee. AlphaGo had won the first three, but Lee took the fourth game on Sunday. AlphaGo beat European Go champion Fan Hui in October 2015, but Lee was expected to be a tougher challenge. However, this beautiful and historical competition is significant because it marks the first time an artificial intelligence program has beaten a top-ranked Go professional.
Synced is proud to present this special interview with Hui Fan. In the interview, Hui Fan took us back to revisit the game he played with AlphaGo, as well as shared his perspectives on Artificial Intelligence and reflection on the meaning of life with the game of Go .
Synced: What ability do you think is more important in the GO games? Logical thinking?
Hui Fan: Logical thinking is a necessity for a GO player. But , the most important ability is perspective thinking, namely put yourself into your competitor’s shoes. You always look before you leap. Now I don’t pursue training top-level GO players, contrarily I prefer to make the GO game in popularity. I believe learning how to play GO is a self-learning process. GO is like a mirror which can point out all your shortcomings. Playing go doesn’t require any special talent, hence everyone can play it even within 30 seconds.
Synced: When looking back different periods in their life, many GO players consider their youth as the golden age in their career. Is that because the brain is in the highest efficiency at that time? Can it be a kind of analogy between human brain’s computing and AlphoGo’s programming ?
Hui Fan: I don’t agree that the only advantage in player’s youth is computing ability, concentration should also be taken into consideration. When you are getting older, the errands in society will consume your attention step by step, unintentionally. You may be distracted by family and social problems while playing GO, and you may also be influenced by the reputation and money. Therefore your performance in GO games is not satisfying than you used to be.
Synced: A lot of professional GO players believe the intuition about GO, even including DeepMind. Which one do you think the development of intuition belong to, a linear accumulation of experience and knowledge or the sudden enlightenment in the Zen? How do you follow your intuition?
Hui Fan: This involves a lot. Sometimes it’s just talent, which is important and even essential in the GO game. Also , your life experience will be reflected to your GO playing honestly. Life experience are not always directly proportional to GO playing, sometimes less may be better for being simpler and more intuitive. Nevertheless some people consider the understanding and happiness from playing GO is more significant than pursuing perfection of skills. As for the sudden enlightenment in the Zen, I believe it is a sense of satisfaction and achievement, a sustainable spiritual joy, which also needs accumulation. Actually there is no sudden enlightenment, but a result of long-time efforts. So does the GO game. Some students are confused because they cannot feel any progress after one-year learning in the GO game. I always told them 「 Haste makes waste 」，like water in a bottle, in which only enough amount of water can break the closure and then gush out. That is the concept of progress.
Synced: GO, Chess even Mathematical Study are often considered as top-level human intellectual activities. People in these fields are identified as genius . But we find it is necessary to foster the ability at very young age through our observation. Later, it can only be taken as hobby if an adult starts to learn GO because of the narrow possibility of becoming a master .Does this attribute to the flexibility of children brain, or the 「purity of mind」 you have just mentioned?
Hui Fan: From whatever aspects, either learning language or playing GO, children always learn faster than adults. The reason is simple. Children will always use whatever they just learn and correct mistakes immediately. However, adults will say I will use it but sometimes don’t with many excuses. Coincidentally, Zen addresses the similar parable. A person is like a sponge, the more you experience, the more the water absorption will be. A child is a brand new sponge with less water , while an adult is a nearly full sponge which can’t accept something new as easy as it used to be.
Synced: According to your opinion, if people can keep a childlike purity mind, can they remain their best performance of GO playing?
Hui Fan: Some people make it happen such as XunXuan Cao and Zhixun Zhao , who I admire most in the GO world . They could obtain so many achievements at their ages, which is nearly impossible in present. Nowadays the increasingly improvement of modern society lead it harder to be purity and concentration. It is inevitable for human beings to become complicated or inattentiveness at their forties because people are engaged in so many new things.
Synced: Rather than discussing about the game itself, I find you constantly unmask the values or philosophy behind the GO.
Hui Fan: Since I have stayed in Europe for years , not only teaching Go game, but also conveying the culture underneath. Like alphaGo , it is just matter of time , however , the Go game actually are trying to inherit an oriental thinking invented by Chinese people. The inner spirit of Go game is 「he」 , a peaceful state of Taoism. Killing the king is not the ultimate objective of Go because each pieces are equal without any superiority . Meanwhile Go game is a definitely team-based game. In the Chess, less and less pieces are remain in the chess board during the battle between both sides, conversely, the number of pieces in hte GO game are continually increased. It matters to understand how to use the current piece to enhance former pieces as a group, which is called team spirit in the GO game.
Synced : Besides the beauty and joy the Go game itself has taught you, do you think it also bring benefits to your life , friendship and kinship ?
Hui Fan: Of course. As a professional player , Go is my philosophy mentor. On my opinion, less is more, and simple is not easy . Everything in the world has its respective rules and regulations but eventually it will be normalized to a simple conception. Go game is too simple thus it is too complicated , it is an ultimate concept.
Synced : 6-dan GO player Zhe Li mentioned that we are in the crossroads of the century , one of the critical value of AI is to help human beings to get better understanding about ourselves. After the battle with AlphaGo, do you also have additional insight about your own life ?
Hui Fan : I strongly agree with Zhe Li. From my perspective , any experiences in one’s life will impact on his future . Honestly, It is hard to tell the impact on myself from this game ( the GO game between Huifan and AlphaGo) because it is just happened , and truly, I am not well aware of it.As to my technical playing skill, it might help , or do the opposite way. This is like a loop , which many top-level players have went through . After you entering a certain level , it must be a loop. Sometimes it is correlated with your mentality , you seems to know everything with strong confident , but suddenly , after stepping into it , you find yourself still in a uncharted path. Low self-esteem comes from uncertainty of the unknown. It happens to all of us. No matter how good you think you are, there is always someone out there that is better. It is useless to blow own’s trumpet and see this world with one’s superficial thought. That is called Taoism in GO game . Your nature is ever changing and is always the same. The path of understanding GO is simply accepting yourself. Live life and discover who you are.